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Colorado Shoots for 30% Renewable Energy by 2020, a Stark Contrast to Its Neighbors

By Dave Levitan

Mar 9, 2010

Colorado’s legislature one of the toughest renewable energy standards in the country on Monday.

Once the governor signs that legislation, utilities will be required to get 30 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. That follows an Gov. Bill Ritter signed last week with Colorado’s largest utility, Xcel, and a coalition of energy companies and lawmakers to reduce pollution and shift several coal-fired power plants to natural gas by 2017.

The state’s clear move toward renewable energy — and away from coal — stands in stark contrast to some of its neighbors in the West, where the best and some of the worst of clean energy policies are on display.

Colorado’s recent history of renewable energy and efficiency benchmarks began in 2004, when it became the first state to put a renewable energy standard vote before the general public instead of the legislature. The move , barely, and since then, the momentum has picked up dramatically. Investor-owned utilities are currently to produce at least 20 percent of electricity by 2020; the that just passed the Colorado Senate 21-13 and the House 37-27 will increase that requirement to 30 percent.

“Colorado’s New Energy Economy is already leading the country toward a cleaner and more secure energy future,” Ritter said.

“This proposal will keep Colorado at the forefront of America’s energy revolution. It will protect consumers, clean our air and protect public health, and create new jobs by increasing demand for Colorado-produced natural gas.”

Whither Utah?

If Colorado is at the forefront of the energy revolution, some of its neighboring states are bringing up the rear. Utah, although with similar renewable resources as well as being similarly situated atop , appears to be backsliding on the issue. The state legislature has taken aim at climate change, issuing a resolution that questions the science and urges the EPA to drop any moves toward regulating greenhouse gases, and the state’s current is only a “goal” for utilities to get 20 percent of their power from cleaner sources by 2025.

Lawmakers also have aimed to of companies that might harm the environment or human health as a result of greenhouse gas-related effects, even though their resolution shows that many at least publicly say they don’t believe what the science shows.

“Contradictory is actually a specialty of the Utah legislature,” said Mark Clemens, of the Sierra Club’s Utah Chapter. “Or, intellectual inconsistency, one could say. Certainly the resolutions are mostly just hot air, and there has been a huge amount of that on Utah’s capitol hill this year.”

Clemens pointed out, though, that not all of the legislature’s actions have been more symbolic than substantive. was introduced as a renewable energy tax credits bill, but then was amended drastically: “Renewable” turned into “alternative,” and the latter now includes energy from petroleum coke, shale oil and tar sands along with standard renewable energy sources.

Lessening our reliance.

This is not an easy fix for any government. I really do believe that change will take time and in my opninion it will be well past 2020 vision as we adjust the the realities that the world in fact must adopt a more moderate approach to energy. We continue to search for altenratives, when we must also consider slowing it down and lessening our reliance.

Alex Gaston

At what cost?

What will be economic cost to the consumers and businesses in Colorado?

I strongly agree we need to continue to reduce pollution. I also agree we need to look for more renewable energy sources. Especially for imported oil. Though we have LOTS of COAL and natural gas in the US. We're the Saudi Arabia of coal. We should be looking for ways to consume MORE coal with LESS pollution.

The cost of more wind, solar and retrofitting coal fired plants to natural gas WILL be passed on to the electrical users. Just as the two tier summer rating system will cost consumers more. Tax Man Ritter signed the two tiered system into law last year. This system is a punitive system rather than rewarding conversation. Currently there is not a capacity shortage in Colorado. It will just mean MORE profit for Xcel.

OH! Don't forget that the majority Coloradoans use natural gas to heat their homes and produce hot water. Natural gas is a commidity. When Xcel starts using MORE of it, the cost for natural gas WILL go up.

Be prepared for your energy bills to DOUBLE or MORE in the next 10 years!!!

Good riddance to Tax Man Ritter!!

Renewable Potential

"Utah has at least as good solar resources as we do, I just haven’t heard much in the form of aggressive policy coming out of there."

Indeed, Utah does. According to state by state estimates for solar thermal potential, Colorado has 38 GW and Utah 74 GW potential.

Arizona, where the conservative legislature is eager to build nuclear plants, there is 285 GW of solar resources, about equivalent to roughly 150 nuclear power plants, adjusting for capacity factors and all.

And Wyoming has very large wind potential.


March 5th was a big day for clean energy in Colorado: HB1001 passed out of the Colorado State Senate taking the RPS to 30% by 2020 and Governor Ritter announced a plan to retire or retrofit older coal plants in the metro area that will take 900MWs of coal off line, which will be replaced with natural gas and other low emission sources. The policies that Governor Ritter has implemented have benefited both the natural and the economic environment. Literally tens of thousands of green jobs have been created since his election. Perhaps even more telling, Colorado was third in the nation in 2008 for venture capital investments in green tech companies (not far behind two much larger states—CA & TX). When private investors our flocking to our state, we know our "New Energy Economy" is the real deal.

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